The partial government shutdown may be making some key federal departments and agencies running with skeletal staffs more vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches, experts said. Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security, said it remains in the dark about how the shutdown has affected the department’s mission to safeguard critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. “With so many cyber activities reliant on highly skilled contractors required to augment government personnel, government shutdowns significantly degrade the ability of the government function to meet all of their cyber mission requirements,” said Greg Touhill, president of Cyxtera Federal, a company that provides cybersecurity services to the federal government.
National: Court allows Republicans to pursue “ballot security” measures aimed at minority voters | Salon
federal court decision may open the door for the Republican National Committee to bring back “ballot security” measures allegedly designed to intimidate minority voters. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a district court decision that ended a longstanding order banning the RNC from using “ballot security” measures that have been seen as suppressing minority voters. With President Trump having taken over the RNC ahead of the 2020 election, voting rights advocates are concerned that Republicans will ramp up suppression efforts in the president’s re-election fight. The order had been in place since 1982, after the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC over “ballot security” measures the DNC claimed had “attempted to intimidate the minority voters” in a New Jersey gubernatorial election and violated the Voting Rights Act.
Members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition team had more than 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials, according to a new report. The milestone illustrates the deep ties between members of Trump’s circle and the Kremlin. The findings, tracked by the Center for American Progress and its Moscow Project, come amid reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the conclusion of the two-year investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president. “This wasn’t just one email or call, or one this or that,” said Talia Dessel, a research analyst for the left-leaning organization. “Over 100 contacts is really significant because you don’t just have 100 contacts with a foreign power if there’s nothing going on there.” The organization used publicly available court documents and reporting to tally up the number of contacts. Each meeting and message was counted as a separate contact.
More than 1 million Floridians with felony convictions regained the right to vote on Tuesday, setting in motion a process that carries the potential to reshape elections in the country’s largest and most unpredictable battleground state. The mass re-enfranchisement of felons who have completed their sentences is the result of Amendment 4, a ballot initiative approved by nearly 65 percent of Florida voters in November that ends a longtime policy requiring felons to petition the state clemency board for their voting rights to be restored. The move expands the pool of eligible voters in Florida by roughly 1.4 million people — a significant number in a state where elections are often decided by fewer than 100,000 votes — setting off a scramble to register eligible felons.
As signs build that Florida’s new governor may suspend Broward County’s elected sheriff from office, a federal judge has ruled that the state’s former governor overstepped when he effectively fired Broward County’s elections supervisor. In a Wednesday evening order, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker found that Rick Scott exceeded his authority when, on the heels of a controversial election recount, he suspended Brenda Snipes from office. Due to the timing of her removal and her plans to resign in early January, Snipes was left without the ability to challenge her ouster or contest the allegations contained in Scott’s executive order. Walker declined to reinstate Snipes, a 15-year veteran of the elections department, which she had sought in the form of a preliminary injunction. He also agreed that the Florida Senate was right to deny her a hearing that by law is typically afforded politicians who seek to challenge a suspension by the governor.
A preliminary report investigating computer problems at voting centers across Johnson and other counties resulted from poor preparation and resulted in Indiana election laws being violated. The report was prepared for the Indiana Secretary of State by Ball State’s Voting System Technical Oversight Program, or VSTOP. The 20-page report examines, in great detail, all the things that went wrong on election day, resulting in thousands of Johnson County voters waiting in line for hours on November 6. The VSTOP report claims Johnson County’s election software vendor, ES&S inadequately anticipated server needs on election day, and did not have their systems properly set up to handle the high voter turnout seen around the county. “The situation which occurred in Johnson is unacceptable for any Indiana electronic poll book vendor,” the report states. “The responsibility for what occurred rests on the shoulders of ES&S.”
Ohio’s elections chief said Wednesday that more than 275,000 inactive Ohio voters are about to get their final opportunity to keep from dropping off the rolls. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said that’s the total number of so-called “last chance mailings” going out from county boards of elections as part of Ohio’s contested process for keeping its list of eligible voters up-to-date. Ohio’s procedure for maintaining its voter rolls is considered one of the most stringent in the nation, because it employs a “supplemental process” that has led to the removal of thousands of people who failed to vote and then didn’t respond to government requests to affirm their registrations.
Proposals to limit corporate money in politics and personal use of campaign funds, along with bills to expand absentee voting or address problems with incorrectly assigned voters that wreaked havoc on Virginia’s 2017 elections, are set to be considered by the Virginia General Assembly in the session that begins Wednesday. Redistricting changes are a key issue this year, since any significant change to policy would require an amendment to the state constitution be approved by both this year’s session and the next, before sending it to Virginia voters in 2020. Proposals meant to remedy voters being assigned to the wrong districts would require additional reviews and attempts to restrict the number of precincts split between multiple legislative districts.
The Republican-controlled state Assembly has requested a court halt proceedings in Wisconsin’s redistricting case pending U.S. Supreme Court action on similar cases from other states. Lawyers for the Assembly, which intervened in the case last fall, wrote to the court Monday saying two cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear on appeal present the same issues as Wisconsin’s Gill vs. Whitford case and that holding a trial would be unnecessary until the Supreme Court cases are resolved. “Proceeding before the Supreme Court issues its decisions would be an unnecessary waste of the Court’s and the parties’ time and resources,” the Assembly lawyers wrote.
It was a treasure trove of information: nearly 20,000 emails and 8,000 attachments, sent by and to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the body which runs the United States’ Democratic party, found its way into the hands of WikiLeaks and were unleashed on the world in late July 2016. The emails were siphoned off DNC servers over the course of a two-month period, but dated back to January 2015, and included private conversations that torpedoed the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and eventually helped elevate Donald Trump to the White House. It wasn’t just in the United States that the ramifications of this unprecedented leak of internal correspondence – which in July 2018 US special counsel Robert Mueller attributed to 12 members of the Russian military – were felt. Something seismic shifted underfoot. While nefarious nation states had been propping up or supporting campaigns aimed at promoting their goals in third countries for decades, this was the most overt attempt at changing the course of history in favour of a third party. And it worked.
Felix Tshisekedi, the leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s main opposition party, has been declared the surprise winner of the 30 December presidential election in the vast central African country. The result, announced early on Thursday, means the first electoral transfer of power in 59 years of independence in the DRC. It will come as a shock to many observers who believed authorities would ensure that the government candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, would be the victor in the polls, the third since the end of a bloody civil war in 2002.
The German government is seeking to improve its cyber defences in the wake of the country’s largest data breach of its kind, which exposed the personal data of hundreds of politicians. The move comes after it was revealed that an unnamed teenager was responsible for the breach, which affected German chancellor Angela Merkel, federal president Frank Walterand and Greens party leader Robert Habeck. The hacked data, comprising about 1,000 records belonging to celebrities and journalists as well as politicians, included contacts’ email addresses, private chats, mobile numbers, photographs and credit card details. However, the German information security agency (BSI) said no government networks were affected and a government spokesperson said no sensitive data from the chancellor’s office had been leaked.
Israel: Admitting flaws, election committee ‘devising plan’ to thwart foreign meddling | The Times of Israel
Israel’s Central Elections Committee said Wednesday that it is devising a detailed plan of action to thwart attempts by foreign countries to meddle in the April 9 Knesset elections, following a reported alert from the head of the Shin Bet security agency that such attempts are being made by a country that cannot be named by orders from the military censor. “Together with security bodies, we learned what happened in other countries and we are devising a plan of action,” the body in charge of organizing the national ballot said in a statement. The statement came a day after reports that Shin Bet chief Nadav Argamon had warned a foreign state “intends to intervene” through cyberattacks in Israel’s elections. The name of the state was gagged by the military censor.
Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court has declared former leader Andry Rajoelina as the winner of the country’s bitterly contested presidential election. Rejecting all complaints filed over the results, the court on Tuesday said Rajoelina won with more than 55 percent of the vote in the Indian Ocean island nation’s runoff election last month. Rajoelina’s main challenger, former President Marc Ravalomanana, received more than 44 percent, the court said. Just over 48 percent of the country’s 10 million registered voters cast their ballots in the vote.
Jeremy Corbyn is to reiterate his call for the Brexit impasse to be put to the people in a general election, as Labour edged closer to pledging to call a no-confidence vote in Theresa May’s government if her departure plan is voted down in the Commons. At a speech in Wakefield on Thursday, the Labour leader is to argue that if May is unable to get her flagship piece of legislation past MPs next week then her government will have lost all authority, meaning an election is urgently needed. “So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide,” he will say, according to extracts from the speech released in advance. “To break the deadlock an election is not only the most practical option, it is also the most democratic option. It would give the winning party a renewed mandate to negotiate a better deal for Britain and secure support for it in parliament and across the country.”